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GP Week : Issue 148
Casey Stoner drew a line in the desert sand on arrival at Qatar ... and it was wavy: “I don’t think it’s going to be as easy this year as it was last season,” he told the pre-event Press conference. His caution came in spite of having set fastest times at all tests, and was a clear response to the strong form shown by all the Yamaha riders, and especially by number one rider Lorenzo. It proved prophetic. With the switch to 1000cc, Jorge and his colleagues believe Yamaha has closed the performance gap to Honda, and Stoner seems to agree. “I don’t ever expect to have another season like last year,” said Stoner, who dominated in his first year on the Repsol Honda with ten race wins. “Watching Jorge’s season in 2010, there was no way I thought anyone could replicate that, winning so many races and the consistency he kept throwing out, but we managed to have an amazing season last year,” he said. “I’m not sure if we can replicate it, but we’re going to try and win as many races as we can,” he said. Stoner has amassed 33 MotoGP wins, all in the 800cc era, making him the most successful rider in that category. In the same period (2007 to 2011) Rossi won 21 races, and starting one year later Lorenzo won 17. Bridgestone’s new generation of quick-warm-up tyres have changed the ground rules of MotoGP, and skewed the advantage in favour of old-style ‘loose’ riding and away from the smooth ‘250-style’ that was effective with the previous long-life tyres. The move from 800cc to 1000cc has also restored engine torque, freeing riders from the need to maintain momentum at all costs, and allowing riders to recover from mistakes. The new tyres warm-up almost instantly, but grip drops suddenly after a few laps, so that riders have to abandon in-line habits of the 800s and find a way to adapt. This favours a particular riding style and background. Practice showed this clearly, as ex-dirt-tracker Nicky Hayden seemed easily able to outpace Ducati team-mate Rossi, prompting the Italian to say: “With this bike you have always the feeling to ride with the rear tyre, and it is a strange feeling, because I always ride with the front.” Cal Crutchlow, something of a sensation in tests and in Qatar practice, is another beneficiary ... not from dirt- tracking, but because the new Bridgestones mimic the behaviour of the Pirelli control tyres he is used to from World Superbikes. Crutchlow was advocating a similar tyre even before he fell victim to a heavy cold-tyre high-side at Silverstone. He has got what he wanted. “They go off quick, though you seem to keep the same lap time, but corner entry gets worse.” As a result braking distances were longer and mid-corner speed dropped off. “Over the winter, we’ve been pretty consistent, using old tires all the time, and maybe it suits me a little bit from the Pirellis. Maybe these guys are too used to going in a straight line, and maybe I’m more used to sliding around,” he said. STONER: “IT WON’T BE SO EASY THIS YEAR” NEW TYRES FAVOUR OLD-SCHOOL RIDERS Crutchlow: “Maybe the ‘Pirellis’ help me” Lower fuel consumption Increased power output Less engine wear Improved cold-start ability 12 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> NEWS MOTOGP >>> NEWS